USC Football: What Happens If the Trojans Go to a Three-Man Backfield?
Among the many big revelations from USC football in the last week, senior running back Silas Redd made his long-awaited return to action in Week 7 against Arizona.
"[Redd] had an excellent practice [Monday]," interim head coach Ed Orgeron said on Tuesday's Pac-12 coaches teleconference call. "Can't wait to watch him play."
Redd's return from a torn meniscus gives USC a backfield with three productive rushers, all of whom are capable of taking some pressure off of sophomore quarterback Cody Kessler.
"We've gotten a little out-of-whack in our passing game. We're not what USC used to be," Orgeron said. "We need to make it quarterback-friendly."
A more quarterback-friendly approach from offensive coordinator and new play-caller Clay Helton means a methodical and multidimensional run game. Redd brings depth, but he doesn’t need to shoulder too much of the load in the coming weeks.
The senior has been out of action since March, and the Trojans found two breakout performers in his absence.
Behind sophomore Tre Madden and true freshman Justin Davis, USC is averaging more than 190 rushing yards per game.
Davis is coming off the best game of his young career, going for 122 yards and three touchdowns in Week 5 against Arizona State.
Madden's 583 rushing yards rank second in the conference behind Washington's Bishop Sankey. With the two youngsters buoying the USC offense, running the ball is not one of the more challenging issues facing Helton.
“If you’ve seen the running game in the last couple games, we’re really making some strides,” Orgeron said. "Our strength is our running backs.”
Certainly Redd adds to that strength, and Helton has options.
There’s no reason for the Trojans to deviate from Madden as the feature back. His outstanding play has been the one consistency for the offense throughout the season.
Redd won't take over the every-down responsibilities, but he could play a more important role in one of the more troubling areas for the USC offense.
The Trojans enter Week 7 with a 27.7 percent conversion rate on third downs. That ranks No. 117 in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
Helton can insert Redd on third downs either as a pass-blocker or a receiving option out of the backfield. He started to come into his own in the passing game late last season, catching seven of his nine passes in his final six games.
Davis provides a change-of-pace look with his explosive speed.
The backfield may be a little crowded as Redd is reintegrated, but the trio provides the new coaching staff its best option for defining the offense's identity.
Kyle Kensing is the Pac-12 Lead Writer. All quotes were obtained firsthand, unless otherwise noted. Follow Kyle on Twitter: @kensing45.
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